Time Well Spent

Some of my fondest memories with my parents when I was a child include volunteering. Together we did things like fill grocery bags at the local food bank for needy families, spend a weekend sprucing up the church we attended, or paint a house for a family that soon would move in. Whatever the activity was, we did it together and it taught me a valuable lesson in how good it feels to give.

As time went by and into my adult years, I found myself running out of time to volunteer. I was just too busy with this and that and before I knew it I became a working mom with hardly a second to spend on myself. Recently I’ve rediscovered the joys of volunteering again through my work as communications manager with Front Porch and through the eyes of my own daughter.

It started a couple of years ago when my husband asked me what I wanted for Valentine’s Day. With a tight budget and not a lot of time to plan something elaborate, I felt I didn’t really ‘need’ anything. I asked him if there was an opportunity to volunteer at Walnut Village Rehabilitation and Care Center where he works and spend some time with the residents, some of whom I knew probably didn’t have family nearby to share the day with. That year with gifts graciously supplied by the California Lutheran Homes Auxiliary, we headed out to share the love with the care center residents.

Front Porch partner CLH has had a long and loving history of social ministry with the care center and we helped continue that mission by distributing gifts the CLH Auxiliary regularly gives to the care center residents. With each gift, a free hug or a mere touch of the hand, a greeting and a smile came with it. My daughter was five then. She was shy, reserved, and very soft spoken. But she soon realized that with every gift she handed out, a very grateful and sometimes emotional person was at the receiving end. Her confidence grew as we passed each room.

Weeks passed since that first visit and through the years, sometimes out of the blue, she would ask, “When are we visiting the grandmas and the grandpas again?” We did every chance we could. And now it has become my own family’s tradition to visit the care center during a holiday. Sometimes we bring friends, including other Front Porch colleagues and their children, to share the fun and satisfaction of bringing cheer, smiles, and free hugs to anyone that wished for one, or two, or more.

As a mom, I’m glad to have rediscovered volunteering through Front Porch and enjoy spending that time with my own family as I did with my parents. Now our daughter has her own ideas about how to cheer residents and how to get others involved and we encourage it. I look forward to her sharing the joy of volunteering with her own family someday.

— Jen Dixon